IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) for School services: what to expect and what the paperwork means.

If your child is school-aged and you have any speech/language concerns, you have likely addressed these concerns to your child’s classroom teacher. Whether or not these concerns are shared amongst you and the classroom teacher, you have the right to request an evaluation (for example, by the school/building Speech-Language Pathologist). There will be initial paperwork to complete, but you will likely hear the acronym, IEP to represent the type of meeting which will take place to discuss any service plan that your child may quality for. 


An IEP stands for, Individualized Education Plan, which is a legally binding document, establishes a plan of service for your child in the school setting. The plan includes your child’s certification (or diagnosis), services being delivered, supplementary aids/services that are applicable, measurable goals and objectives and duration/frequency of services being delivered. The document is established and finalized in a meeting with the caseload teacher/therapist, classroom teacher, parents and any other specialists who may work with your child to help them achieve their long term goals and optimize their academic performance. IEP meetings are held once per year in the schools. Every three-years there is a re-evaluation IEP where consent is obtained to evaluate students to make sure they continue to qualify for the services being provided. 


There are three types of IEP meetings; (1) is an initial meeting, (2) is an annual meeting, (3) is a re-evaluation meeting. While all meetings are relatively similar, the three types of meetings yield different requirements and reporting style. 

Initial IEP meeting:

In an initial IEP meeting, parents will convene with eligible specialists who work with/have evaluated your child (consent for evaluation would have already been obtained by this point). Results from any and all testing would be presented both orally and in a formal report. Both strengths and weaknesses of the child will be discussed at the meeting; these strengths and weaknesses will determine a primary certification that is most appropriate for the child. Parents can ask questions throughout the meeting to understand what the outcomes suggest going forward. Goals and objectives will be developed based on testing outcomes and any challenging observations made prior to the IEP meeting. In addition to goals and objectives, service type (e.g. speech/language services), duration/frequency of service (e.g. 1-4x/month for 30 minute sessions) and supplementary aids/services are determined prior to the meeting and shared at the meeting. Alterations can always be made, even at the meeting, to make sure the appropriate needs are being met and the parents share in the resulting plan. 

  • WHAT IS A PRIMARY DIAGNOSIS: The primary diagnosis is the certification for which your child will receive services within the educational facility. Primary certifications may include, but are not limited to: speech/language impairment, hearing impairment, cognitive impairment, learning disability, emotional impairment, otherwise health impaired, otherwise physically impaired, autistic impairment. These impairments/deficits are determined through testing and formally established with a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) form, which is also reviewed and signed at the IEP meeting.
  • WHAT IS THE PRESENT LEVEL: The present level will address any and all applicable observations of the student regarding the area of concern (for example, if math and reading are of concern, academics will be reviewed in this section during the IEP; if speech and language is a concern, then speech will be reviewed in this section during the IEP).
  • WHAT ARE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES: Goals and Objectives are written in two formats, long-term and short-term objectives. Long-term objectives are achievement goals, which take a longer time to achieve (example: student will be able to accurately articulate /s/ phoneme sounds in all word positions with 100% accuracy). Short-term objectives are set up to help students to achieve their long-term goals (example: student will accurately articulate /s/ phoneme sounds in initial word position with 70% accuracy and 0-3 prompts for correction).
  • WHAT IS SERVICE DELIVERY: The service delivery details which services are being provided (academic, reading, math, speech, social work, occupational or physical therapy), the time in minutes (30 min; 45 min; 60 min) and the time per week (2-3x per week).
  • WHAT IS ESY: ESY is another acronym, which is short for, extended school year. This type of service is usually reserved for students who show significant regression over school breaks (winter, mid-winter, summer). This type of service usually applies to children with a more significant handicap/primary certification.
  • WHAT ARE SUPPLEMENTARY AIDS/SERVICES: Within the IEP, there is a section where more needs can be serviced than just within the goals and objectives section. For example, if your child requires preferential seating (e.g. closer to the front), more time on tests or accommodations during testing taking (e.g. directions read aloud), or technology support, these elements can be documented to ensure successful academic aid/performance. As a disclaimer regarding supplementary aids/services, there are/may be stipulations of what can be included based on the primary certification and district/state in which these services are being offered. 

Annual IEP meeting:

An annual IEP meeting is an IEP meeting held within the timeline of compliance where service professionals meet to discuss progress of the students and determine if goals/objectives, duration/frequency and/or supplementary aids/services need to be altered. No testing is required at these meetings, unless the child receiving services is being discharged from services. 

Re-evaluation IEP meeting:

A re-evaluation IEP meeting is held every three years in order to determine whether or not the child receiving services still remains eligible for those services provided. As with any (type of) IEP meeting, adjustments are made to meet the needs of the child. There are times where students are found ineligible at these meetings after updated testing results are obtained. In this case the child would have met all of their long/short term goals and objectives and services would be discontinued. As a note to parents, discharging a student from services does not mean that they can never obtain IEP services again; rather it is a positive outcome as a result of an appropriate plan developed to increase academic performance in a given area. 

As always these service plans are aimed at providing the best possible service to any child in need. These are not documents meant to isolate your child in a self-contained classroom, but rather designed to address any adverse learning in a tailored manner.